Saturday 11th July 2015.
Tonypandy Albions 6-3 AFC Gilfach
Cambrian Lakeside Sports Academy, Clydach Vale.
Attendance: Circa 20.
“You couldn’t keep away even in pre-season could you?” Gavin asks me.
“55 today! I’m getting there. No way would I miss this!” I reply.
The Gavin mentioned above is Gavin Smart, a well respected and experienced referee officiating in the Rhondda area. I’ve met Gavin a few times before, he officiated several games I took in last year and is a common sight at games in this area, perhaps more common a sight than I am at the moment.
Gavin’s a good guy and always shows a great interest in the blog and this is illustrated here purely to show how sad an adventure like this can become. Referees, by their very nature, shouldn’t know spectators on first names terms. Perhaps I am attending too many games!
We got home from our week in New Quay early this morning and arriving back at our new home in Porth was a welcome relief from the stresses and strains of moving home in recent weeks.
With a reliable internet connection for the first time in a week, after a quick check of Twitter I found that the newly reformed Tonypandy Albions has scheduled a pre-season friendly against AFC Gilfach at the Cambrian Lakeside Sports Academy, or known by it’s more commonly used name, Cambrian & Clydach BGC’s home ground.
Living in Porth meant that as another welcome relief, especially when compared to the 100 mile journey up to Newtown last week, that I was able to get to the ground from my house before ‘It’s Getting Better (Man)’ by Oasis even finished on the CD player.
The Cambrian ground is looking superb nowadays, and it’s clear to see where the investment has gone in recent years. The ground now houses two very attractive small stands, executive and directors boxes, loudspeakers, offices, a patio area and a smaller 5-a-side pitch behind one of the goals.
The 3G pitch is now used heavily by the community when not being used by Cambrian & Clydach of the Welsh League. Community 6-a-side tournaments take place on the pitch in the evening and the pitch I’m lead to believe is UEFA accredited and comes with all of the things that entails.
Tonypandy Albions are an interesting side. Newly re-formed from the ashes of previous club Tonypandy Albion who sadly disappeared from the South Wales Senior League a couple of years ago after the club ceased to be.
Having previous plyed their trade in Division 1 of the South Wales Senior League as recent as 2013, at Tier 5 of the Welsh Pyramid, being recognised as a new club in the eyes of the FAW, means the club will start the 2015/16 season in the newly formed Division One of the Rhondda & District Football League, a new division in the Rhondda League following its expansion. Tonypandy will find themselves playing at Tier 9 of the Welsh Pyramid (an extra tier has been added due to the amalgamation of the previous two tiers of the South Wales Amateur and South Wales Senior Leagues into a three tiered South Wales Alliance league run by the South Wales FA).
It’s great to see a Tonypandy side representing the town again. As my place of birth I will always hold a great love for the town. I also lived in Edmondstown for the first twenty years of my life, Edmondstown being a small village that sort of exists within the town of Tonypandy.
Among the larger towns within the Rhondda Valley, the likes of Porth, Treorchy and Pentre have been well represented by multiple sides over the years, so it has been sad to see a town as large in the scale of things as Tonypandy being without a football team for so long. Some people may suggest that Cambrian & Clydach represent the village, but there does seem to be some form of disconnection between the Cambrian side and the town of Tonypandy, something I’m unable to put my finger on for some reason?
The town has a great football heritage, which starts from the 1920’s “Mid Rhondda” side who represented the town at a very high level of the professional game
AFC Gilfach are a side I’m quite familiar with. I took in a game of theirs in the not so distant past under their previous guise of Gilfach MODs.
AFC Gilfach play their football in the Bridgend & District Football League. Their ground, although only six or seven miles from Cambrian’s ground in Mid-Rhondda, is geographically suited to playing in the Bridgend & District League as it sits pretty much on the border of the Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend council areas.
Another one of the things I enjoy about pre-season friendlies is that it brings together sides from different leagues, different pyramids and often different countries. It offers a chance to get some kind of comparative analysis between different leagues in the area.
The game kicks off at 5pm, the weather is fine, in fact after being sunburned to within an inch of my life at Mwnt earlier this week, I’m quite happy with the cooling breeze around Cambrian at the moment.
AFC Gilfach have the first real opportunity of the game, Gilfach’s No.5 make a break through into the Tonypandy half on the counter attack. Much to his chagrin he is taken down inches outside of the box in what most of us would call a “You’d take a booking” sort of challenge. Being a pre-season friendly, Mr. Smart chooses not to brandish a card this early in the game, instead giving a strong word and a warning to the offending Albions player.
The resulting free kick was well taken by Gilfach’s No.8 who hit a placed effort in the centre of the goal, running under the Tonypandy goalkeeper who will probably feel he could have done better on this occasion.
Twelve minutes into the game, Tonypandy equalised through tricky creative player Luke Huntley. Tonypandy’s No.8 capitalised on a under-hit back pass and dispatched the ball to Huntley who made no mistake from close range to level the scores at 1-1.
Gilfach’s No.5, who played a heavy role in most of his side’s attacking play was unlucky not to score on 20 minutes when he broke free from his marker and unleashed a testing shot from about twenty five yards out. Albion’s keeper made a quite brilliant save to keep the scores level, the shot rebounded to the feet of the same player who failed to connect with his second effort as cleanly as the first, putting the ball well wide of the goal.
Toynpandy looked to have taken the lead on the half hour mark when their No.3 looked to have beat the offside trap and headed in from close range. Unfortunately for the Albions, Gavin Smart judged his effort to be offside in the build up.
After last night’s match at Tregaron being the first match I’d ever seen in my twenty five years of football watching to be played in three thirds of a half an hour each, today’s match would go the same way!
An unfortunate coming together between AFC Gilfach’s goalkeeper and a Tonypandy striker just after the half hour resulted in the Gilfach keeper needing medical treatment for a very bloody nose and some bruising to the face.
The goalkeeper needed five or six minutes of treatment and wanting not to break the natural flow of the game, Gavin Smart made the smart decision (ah, you see what I did there) of splitting the game into three thirds, using the first interval for the Gilfach keeper to get the necessary treatment for his injury.
I had a word with the keeper as he made his way to the changing rooms, he didn’t look to be in a good way, but luckily he came back from the changing rooms ten minutes later looking in a much better condition although visibly in a lot of pain.
Gilfach would always find it difficult from here on in as they appeared to be playing with makeshift goalkeepers as the starting keeper was clearly unable to continue without going far beyond the pain barrier.
It was perhaps unexpected then that Gilfach almost immediately took the lead in the first minute of the second third of the game, after being awarded a penalty for a handball in the box.
Gilfach’s No.8 stepped up to the spot and held his nerve as he slotted the ball to the goalkeeper’s left. The keeper guessed the right way, but was unable to get a hand on the ball and Gilfach found themselves with a 2-1 lead only minutes after losing their first choice goalkeeper.
After some resolute defending, Gilfach finally conceded an equaliser ten minutes into the second third when a well worked piece of play from the Albions resulted in the ball falling to the feet of their striker Luke Jones who faced down on the Gilfach keeper twelve yards from goal. The Tonypandy striker cooly and calmly placed his effort over the goalkeeper to put his side level.
Somewhat against the run of play in the second third, Gilfach took the lead for the third time in the game when an Albions defender(No.4) hit a very poor back pass to his goalkeeper that was picked up by Gilfach’s No.13 who latched onto the loose ball and hit a quite spectacular effort into the top right corner of the goal, leaving the Tonypandy keeper with very little chance of stopping his effort.
With a minute left in the second third, Tonypandy Albions were awarded a corner that was superbly crossed into the box by Luke Jones and Albion’s No.2 rose above his markers to head his effort above the Gilfach goalkeeper who was unable to stop the Tonypandy side levelling affairs.
With the score level at 3-3 going into the final third, I was intrigued to see how the rest of the game would unfold in front of my eyes.
Five minutes into the final third, Gilfach’s No.10 was unlucky not to put his side ahead when he again beat the offside trap after a deflected header fell to his feet. The Albions keeper being exceptionally brave for a pre-season friendly blocked the ball at the Gilfach striker’s feet, putting his body on the line for his side.
It was clear to see at this point how organised the Tonypandy side were, on occasions the three man defence (they appeared to be playing either a 3-5-2 or a 5-3-2 formation) were visibly and audibly frustrated with each other, which for a pre-season friendly shows just how much this means to the side.
Tonypandy Albions finally took the lead in the game on 70 minutes when Luke Jones excellently beat his marker and fired home from close range to give his side a 4-3 lead.
Unfortunately for AFC Gilfach, they went 5-3 down only seconds later after a meek kick from their goalkeeper resulted in the ball falling directly at the feet of an oncoming striker, who unselfishly laid the ball on a plate for his No.9 colleague who was arguably in a better position to score, his powerful effort went in off the underside of the bar and probably wrapped up the game for his side.
Tonypandy wrapped up the game and tonight’s scoring with a powerful shot from their No.4 who scored arguably the goal of the game from about twenty five yards out which went unchallenged by the Gilfach goalkeeper.
Despite scoring such a great goal, the Tonypandy defender found himself being playfully mocked by his team mates, who afforded him the goal celebrations after the earlier poor back pass.
Gilfach had enough time to almost score a consolation through their No.5, who I’ve mentioned a handful of times in this blog entry after he had a very decent game. The Gilfach play maker hit a peach of an effort from about thirty yards out when he had no attacking options in front of him. His effort beat the Albions goalkeeper but unfortunately rattled the crossbar and went out for a goal kick.
Gavin Smart, who officiated the game excellently, brought the game to a close and Tonypandy Albions chalked up a second victory in as many weeks since their reformation.
Tonypandy Albions will clearly be a force to be reckoned with in Division One of the Rhondda & District Football League. Other new sides in the league such as The Prince of Wales (Treorchy) and The Rez (Trealaw) will offer stern competition, but having watched a lot of football in the Rhondda last year I’m confident in saying in won’t be too long until Tonypandy Albions find themselves competing for a place back in the South Wales Alliance again.
AFC Gilfach have a number of players who could mount a serious attempt at improving their position in the Bridgend league this season. They’ve been unfortunate in losing both of the games I’ve watched them this year, but they have bags of potential and a number of key individuals with a lot of skill that a decent team could be built around.
I’d like to wish the very best of luck to both sides in their upcoming seasons and I will definitely keep an eye on both of their campaigns, hopefully taking in a few of their games along the way.
Much like yesterday’s match, this was indeed, like football is – a game of three halves!
My Man of the Match: In a game like this, with great performances on both sides it’s often hard to pick out an individual player. Luke Jones of Tonypandy Albions had a great game, scoring twice and laying on a superb corner kick for the third goal and therefore takes the dubious accolade.